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Florida PGA Professional Mike San Filippo has his sights set on a strong showing this week. (Photo: PGA.com)
Florida PGA Professional Mike San Filippo has his sights set on a strong showing this week. (Photo: PGA.com)

San Filippo ready to take next step in Senior PGA

He's played in -- and made the cut in -- the last three Senior PGA Championships, so PGA Professional Mike San Filippo is over the stage fright such a stage can cause. Now, the Floridian is prepared to make his mark with the big boys.

By T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor

EDMOND, Okla. -- Taking a quick glance down the line of players hitting golf balls at the practice range at Oak Tree Golf Club, preparing their respective arsenal for the 67th Senior PGA Championship, one man's glow is apparent.

With a smile from ear-to-ear, Miami's Mike San Filippo digs into his stance and strikes a beautiful arching shot directly at his target. He flips the club to his caddy, grabs another club, hits another shot and the result is the same.

San Filippo is here at Oak Tree as the reigning champion of the Callaway Golf PGA Senior Club Professional Championship (Sr. CPC). He won in a playoff at the event last November. He also won the Sr. CPC in 2003.

"It's a great honor and it's a real thrill for a club professional like myself, or ex-club professional to be able to come out and play with the guys here," he said. "It's exciting. Everyone back home is looking forward to seeing the box scores, so we'll have a great week. There's no lose in this situation."

While San Filippo is no stranger to the grand stage of the Senior PGA Championship -- this will be his fourth overall -- he's looking to parlay the knowledge and experience he's gained in his previous outings into a strong finish this week.

And, because of what he calls a great venue, he stands a realistic chance of playing exceptionally well.

"This is such a wonderful tournament," he said. "Of all the Senior PGA Championships I've played I'm really the most excited about this one. I just love this golf course. I think it's the best golf course that we've had to play since I've been eligible to play in them. I'm looking forward to playing in it, especially since the changes that have been made. I played in the 1988 PGA here and since then they've made some changes. I think the course is more playable and much more fun to play now. I think it's going to be a great venue for this event."

Perhaps the most significant change made to Oak Tree since that 1988 PGA Championship, won by Oklahoman Jeff Sluman, is the flattening of the greens on the front nine. By no measure is that to call the greens flat. They're just not as undulating as they were, a fact San Filippo likes.

"We'll see how well it sets up for me. My point is I just think it's a whole lot more playable than it was, with the greens particularly on the front nine," he said. "They took a lot of the mounding out and I feel they're a lot more receptive. On the first hole, the green is moved over and we have a little better angle to hit into it. There aren't all the ridges and lumps we had when it was new. I think it's going to hold iron shots a little better and it's going to be easier to get the ball closer to the hole. If you miss the green, I think you have a reasonable chance of getting it up and down. Before if you missed the green, it was hard to chip it back on the green, much less chip it close to the hole."

San Filippo has played in every Senior PGA Championship since 2003, making the cut each time. However, he has yet to finish inside the top 25. His best start was a tie for 31st in 2004.

Having built confidence from two top-25 finishes in his only two Champions Tour starts this season, San Filippo thinks his game is in shape for this week, despite limited practice coming in, and couldn't stress enough the magnitude that a high finish could have on his career.

"This is an important tournament for me because I need to get some money to add to that money-list and get myself in a position where I can get some exemptions into future events," San Filippo said. "I need to have a good week. The down side is I haven't played quite as much as I would have liked to leading into this. But, it's still golf and if I can get out, get comfortable and start getting things going right I think I'll do alright. For me this is an important golf tournament."

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